Best Sunscreens for Cyclists and Triathletes

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Raw Elements' Eco Stick
Raw Elements' Eco Stick is perfect for a long day in the saddle.

Although the best sunscreen for cyclists is to leave no skin exposed, let’s face it–as cyclists, we love to show off our hours in the saddle with deep tan lines. Riding with arm and leg “sun skins” (like the ones below) will help prevent sun damage, but some of us might be a bit too vain to pull on a few extra layers in warm weather.

So what’s the alternative? Excellent sunscreen reapplied at regular intervals that will help to repel the sun while still keeping us looking awesome in our boldly colored lycra.

Best/Worst Chemicals:

Before you start picking through the stacks of sunscreens, it’s important to know what ingredients have been found to be the safest. Stick to lotions that use relatively safe active ingredients that reflect the sun like Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, or Avobenzone. Finding products that avoid nano particles as well is quite important–this keeps the product from absorbing into your skin and doing damage.

Some of the most popular chemicals in sunscreens today have been found to disrupt hormones in the body, and should be avoided as much as possible–especially in pregnant or nursing mothers as it may affect fetuses/infants. I’ve noticed that most sunscreen companies don’t make a point of announcing what’s in their product, which causes me to take several steps back from the shelf. It’s important to know what you’re smearing on your skin. Some products may be convenient for light packing, but, without safe ingredients, they’re difficult to recommend.

As for chemicals, steer way clear of Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and especially vitamin A (also called retinyl palmitate or retinol) which may actually cause skin cancer. There are varying degrees of danger in these active ingredients that I won’t go into here as well as a few other ingredients to watch out for when you’re browsing the shelves. For incredibly in-depth information and to find out how well the bottle of sunscreen in your cabinet rates, check out the EWG’s 2014 Guide to Sunscreens.


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Get These Brands

I’ve tried several brands of sunscreen in my quest for the best. There are a few manufacturers offering lotions that both protect you from the sun and are made with purer ingredients than perhaps more well-known brands. While these tend to be much more thick than your usual Banana Boat fare, they’re meant to sit atop the skin a bit and reflect the sun as opposed to a chemical absorbing into your skin. They aren’t, however, greasy and slimy like some brands.


Raw Elements:

Raw Elements' Eco Stick
Raw Elements’ Eco Stick is perfect for a long day in the saddle.

With a great deal of truly natural ingredients (try sunflowers, tea leaves, peace, fairy dust, and goodwill–OK, here’s the real list of ingredients, but you’ll still be impressed), plus a helpful dose of non-nano particle zinc oxide, Raw Elements keeps you protected without causing the whitening effect that might deter some.

My favorite product Raw Elements offers is the Eco Stick, which can even be applied underwater–meaning sweat-soaked skin is no problem. Not only is it quick and easy to reapply while hammering out the miles, you won’t have to stop and towel off to ensure the sunscreen stays on your skin. While a little bulky for a jersey pocket, it’s still compact enough not to take up any more space than would a cell phone.

I was first introduced to Raw Elements through small giveaway packets in race bags. These single application samples are perfect for leaving in a flat fixer kit, but alas the company does not sell them. As a second best option, however, the Eco Stick is a great alternative. Buy directly from Raw Elements, find it at your local health store, or grab it through the links below:

Elemental Herbs – All Good

All Good Sunscreen
All Good Sunscreen is SPF-33 and filled with truly natural ingredients that work!

Not only is All Good a company local to SLO, it’s also a product that works. With a healthy helping of non-nano zinc oxide as well as other non-chemical, pure, non-GMO ingredients, All Good does the job well without leaving a greasy film or whiteness behind. As an aside, the company also sells Herbal Freeze, which works amazingly well on sore muscles–perfect for days after you’ve hammered a bit too hard up those hills.

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The Sun Stick is the most convenient product for carrying with you on a ride, but it’s a little too small for covering larger areas that are exposed to the sun. So I’ve included a few ideas below for carrying cases that you can simply refill with the larger bottles of sunscreen–an excellent alternative.

Try All Good’s line of sunscreens, sun sticks, muscle soothers, and chap sticks through their website, at your local health food store, or through the links below:

Homemade Sunscreen by Wellness Mama

Feeling ambitious enough to make your own sunscreen? The Wellness Mama has you covered with her own all-natural recipe. I tried creating this in my kitchen, and despite my somewhat helplessness at the stove, it was certainly doable. Although my concoction wasn’t quite as smooth and easy to apply as the afore-mentioned products, it definitely worked to block the sun. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!



Carrying Containers

Whether you’re training for an Ironman, or out on that century, it’s important to reapply your sunscreen after the recommended time on the bottle. So how do you carry more lotion with you without lugging a giant bottle around in your kit?

Re-use eye-drop bottles:

If you’re prone to dry eyes, a quite convenient way to reuse these bottles that might otherwise end up in the recycle bin is to wash them out and refill them with sunscreen. Available in both .28oz and .5oz sizes, these carry plenty of lotion to reapply to all those areas not covered by UPF protective clothing while still easily storing in a jersey pocket or flat-changing kit. Of course, you can always find other small bottles or jars–pick them up at a hobby shop or your local grocery store.

Have any other ideas for carrying sunscreens? Used a product that you really love? Let me know about it in the comments section below!

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

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